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THE IDEAL PHYSIQUE HAS EVOLVED OVER TIME. From the brawny frame of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body building days, to the taut, wiry build of martial artist Bruce Lee, to the more natural, chiseled features of Brad Pitt circa Fight Club and Troy, the newest ‘it-body’ is always waiting in the wings. No matter what look is most desirable to individuals, six-pack abs are de rigueur for all.

The good news for anyone aiming for a perfect six-pack is that you realistically achieve it in two to three months, and perhaps best, without doing a single crunch in the process. The bad news is that it requires a commitment to simple diet plus exercise-a lifestyle change that for many is far easier said than done.

“People already have abdominal muscles but they’re covered by a layer of fat,” says Chris Ranes, certified personal trainer and founder of Fitness Ranes Studio, as he breaks down the basics. “When you reduce the layer of fat, the abs show through.”

Those who try to build muscle without first losing fat learn the hard way that bigger muscles simply push fat out with them, making the gut appear larger, preaches Rey Ronquilio, Mr. USA champion 2003 as well as general manager and master personal trainer at Honolulu Club. “It’s a myth that if you do crunches you get abs,” he says. “The simple rule is energy in vs. energy out, and 70 percent of your results depends on how you eat.”

With one pound equivalent to 3,500 calories, losing that single pound involves cutting 500 calories from one’s diet every day for a week.

“You can’t eat good one day and bad the next. It takes two to three months of strict dieting and strict training,” Ronquilio explains.

Considering our plate-lunch culture mostly full of empty calories from white rice and macaroni salad-he says most people have trouble understanding that an appropriate portion of rice is no larger than a deck of cards.

“For myself, I had to give up desserts,” admits Ronquilio.

Where many diets aim for weight loss, Honolulu Club targets fat loss.

“Fad diets often don’t involve exercise and people on them find they lose a lot of fat, but they also lose muscle tissue. What happens when they lose muscle is the body slows down, they lose metabolism and gain the weight back faster,” Ronquilio says.

He recommends eating small meals four to six times a day to keep the body efficiently fueled, versus the two or three meals people usually eat. When the body doesn’t receive fuel in regular intervals, it goes into starvation mode, instructing cells to store more fat.

A personal trainer can help tailor an appropriate regimen of diet and exercise to an individual. Someone who hasn’t worked out at all might start with a walking regimen, graduating to light cardiovascular exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day.

At Honolulu Club, Ronquilio uses the F.I.T.T. principle of training, referring to frequency, intensity, time and type in varying routines to prevent the body from adapting to a certain level and type of exercise.

Once an individual attains their optimum condition and appearance, routines are adjusted to maintain that perfect balance. Unfortunately, it wisely includes avoiding the six-pack aisle at grocery stores.